San Jose is an extremely diverse city, and that diversity is evident in its wide variety of cultural offerings, including festivals with international flair, theater, galleries and music venues.
The annual Vietnamese Spring Festival and Parade, celebrations marking both Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence Day, and a three-day event in honor of U.S. Independence Day are all popular. San Jose’s largest outdoor celebration is the Tapestry Arts Festival, held each year over Labor Day weekend. Six square blocks in downtown are filled with live music, artists, food and an elaborate home and garden show. Proceeds from the festival help fund arts education programs in elementary schools throughout the region.
The Tapestry Festival is just one element of the city’s vibrant arts scene, which is highlighted by the bright blue building containing the San Jose Repertory Theatre. The Rep, as it is known locally, has attracted several famous actors since opening in 1980, including Holly Hunter, Lynne Redgrave, Carol Burnett and Angela Lansbury. Children can join in on the acting through the Saturday afternoon Creative Playshop, a side theater where kids can improvise scenes from the play their parents are watching on the main stage.
The stunning California Theatre, built in 1927, was restored and reopened in 2004 after being closed for 30 years. The theatre is used for performances by Opera San José, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, Symphony Silicon Valley and the Cinequest Film Festival, as well as national touring companies.
European flair marks Santana Row, a collection of upscale restaurants, nightspots, shops and galleries located about three miles from downtown. This pedestrian-friendly area has fountains imported from Barcelona and vibrant, colorful architecture. Street performers, musicians and outdoor chess games add to the Mediterranean feel of the area.
If you're seeking an Asian influence, San Jose has one of the three remaining Japantowns in the U.S. Traditional Japanese food can be found in various shops, restaurants and a farmers market. The store Nichi Bei Bussan has been selling Japanese merchandise such as kimonos since 1902.
It is possible to have a good time in San Jose without ever leaving the sofa. In this case, that’s SoFA, as in the South of First Arts area. SoFA is located near San Jose State University. This is the place to dance and hear live music at clubs with such names as Agenda and the Elixir Ultralounge.